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If there’s any uncertainty that packaged wines should have their place at the dinner table let’s get real — canned wine is just as good as the bottled stuff. Maybe, dare I say, even better sometimes? Those aluminum cans are the perfect size for being smuggled in bags onto the beach, cracked open during a patio BBQ, and artfully sipped as you walk around a gallery.
The best canned wines keep portability in mind, but maintain the same quality as any other red, white, rosé, and sparkling. You won’t have to break out the corkscrew, pack a bunch of glasses, or lug around an unwieldy bottle. Since the cans are usually sold in four-packs and keep to around 10-12 oz, you can roll up to an event with California’s finest with the same energy you would roll up to a tailgate.
That being said, you won’t be pounding these back the same way you would a sessionable IPA — most of these miniature cans pack half a bottle of wine each, and can be up to twice the ABV of a craft beer. If you’re looking for beverage that’s just as light and sippable, but with less of a chance of tapping out of the party early, hard seltzers are the way to go (and there are certainly many you can go for this year).
But there are some occasions that just deserve a can of bubbly, and we don’t just mean a Tuesday night. Though you can also shop many of the best canned wine brands online these days, with everyone from Drizly to Saucy, and even wine site Vivino delivering cases to your door. No need to run to a liquor store only to find that that obscure vintage bottle you had at dinner once is sold out.
Unpretentious, easy-to-carry, and oh so good, we’ve rounded up our canned wines to try out this season.
1. Dark Horse Pinot Grigio
Dark Horse Pinot Grigio is everything you want in a white wine — light-bodied, refreshing, oh, and did we mention it’s perfectly portable? This 13.4% ABV California wine is bright enough to be served slightly chilled in a glass at dinner, but with an easy-open top, it’s more likely to become your go-to beverage of choice while you’re making the conversation rounds at your next backyard hang or pool party. At its budget-friendly price, we’re also impressed by how much bold, expressive flavor comes in one 375 mL can.
Using innovative winemaking techniques, the blend features viognier, riesling, and of course, pinot grigio grapes, but ends up mixed together with an un-oaked chardonnay. This delivers amazingly crisp notes of tart apple and juicy citrus, along with a mouthfeel (yes we’re breaking out this oft-overused term) that’s creamy, yet still maintains a bubbly finish and great minerality. The fruit-forward flavors would make a great companion to a cheese board, although it can really be paired with any light summertime BBQ foods. But overall, Dark Horse proves that you don’t have to sacrifice accessibility for well-rounded flavor.
2. Nomadica Red Blend
If you’re a red wine connoisseur, you might be conjuring up images of wide, dome-like glasses and a big steak dinner rather than a can you could toss in a cooler at the beach. We get it — how is an un-poured wine supposed to embody all the rich flavors of a full-bodied red? Nomadica is the answer to that question.
Like four leaf clovers hiding within a manicured lawn, good-quality red wines are hard to find in the canned variety, but Nomadica stands out from the pack. A beautifully complex mix of grenache, sangiovese and zinfandel are blended in small batches before they’re barrel-aged for maximum softness. And man, is it smooth — silky, without being too heavy (it’s only 250 ML too), you’ll be able to taste all the layers within, from the fruity red berries like cherry to hints of sandalwood and licorice. It’s still pretty dry though, so you’ll want to pair this with a big, juicy burger. At 12% ABV, it’s also slightly lighter than you would think, so it makes a great dinnertime wine.
3. Underwood Rosé
Rosé tends to either be cloying sweet and overly fruity, or smooth with a touch of sweetness — Underwood Rosé is the latter. Sophisticated without being pretentious, this is a great wine to bring to a housewarming party with you want to impress, or to toss in your bag for a picnic, even to rock out with at a concert. Basically a wine made for what the company calls, “action lounging.”
Underwood draws from a lot of locally-sourced vineyards and winemaking regions in Oregon, and is a portable 375 mL canned version of their popular bottled wine (though you would be hard pressed to tell the difference). It’s as easy to love as it is to drink (even for so-called rosé haters), one where you certainly taste the summer sweetness of the berry and peach flavors, but it still ends on a crisp finish that’s very lovely. At 13% ABV, this will turn any casual summertime hang into a memorable time.
4. Cool Cat
Cool Cat isn’t a regular wine spritzer — it’s a cool wine spritzer. Cooler than the kinds typically seen at college dorm parties of yore, and certainly cooler than anything that was canned up in the Nineties. This is wine’s answer to hard seltzer, a bubbly mix that’s light on ABV (a respectable 6.9% ABV), but brings in bold flavors, all in one extremely sippable 12 oz package.
Sonoma California pinot grigio combines here with carbonated water and pure cane sugar to deliver a refreshing fizziness, great for if you’re under the sun on a hot day and don’t want to get bogged down with a heavier wine. You may be surprised that, yes, this is still wine, with unique and out-of-the-box flavors like Elderflower Mint Lime (an ode to the classic Mojito) and Grapefruit (tart and citrusy). But it’s this creativity that makes Cool Cat so versatile, since it stands up just as well poured over ice as it would be used for a cocktail mixer. Dress it up or down, but with this wine seltzer in hand, every table you sit at will be the cool kids table.
5. Francis Ford Coppola Sofia Mini Blanc de Blancs
Yes, you heard us right, that Coppola. The Godfather and Apocalypse Now director has been a vinter since the 2010s, releasing several award-winning wines out of his Sonoma winery, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be impressed by this pleasantly effervescent offering. Made from a blend of pinot blanc, with some muscat and dry riesling added for good measure, it’s an elegant flavor that doesn’t pack the punch of some other canned wines, but brings the subtlety.
This light, sparkling blend also comes has the added benefit of being an ultra-compact can, at just 187 mL and 11.5% ABV. But sometimes it’s nice to have the equivalent to an hors d’oeuvres of a beverage — you get a little taste of all the hints of pear and melon, and a bit of the sweetness from the honey, and then, like a memorable film, it’s over too soon. Throw one in your picnic basket, take it out on a lake, or crack one open instead of a champagne bottle during a party for a delightful, memorable sip (though, keep a few cans on hand if it’s going to be a long afternoon).